Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, motorcycle enthusiasts and OEMs alike lamented the elusive Millennial buyers and declining sales. Throughout the global health crisis, however, motorcycles have surged in popularity. That's partly due to the social distancing mandates enacted by local governments. As a result, manufacturers experienced record sales growth, with Ducati, BMW, and Energica reporting large gains in 2020 and 2021.
While the Japanese OEMs have benefitted from the increased interest as well, the big four (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha) are reporting that domestic shipments hit a 23-year high in 2021. Today, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association announced that 233,059 motorcycles (51cc+) were shipped throughout the country between January-November, 2021.
That number is a 20.6-percent uptick over the same period in 2020, and the organization forecasts that the total 2021 shipments will increase to 235,755 when December is factored into the equation. The successful 2021 marks Japan's most successful year since 1998, when customers purchased 318,080 units.
While Kawasaki’s sales data points to middle-aged and older riders joining the riding community, Yamaha and Honda both reported increased sales among younger riders. Last year alone, Honda sold over 30,000 PCX scooters while more than half of Yamaha’s YZF-R25 customers were in their teens or twenties. Suzuki saw the same pattern, with young people driving a 40-percent jump in GSX250R sales between January-October, 2021.
Though the immediate success is exciting, the Japanese OEMs aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“The rapid surge in demand will likely settle down once the coronavirus pandemic subsides,” predicted Yamaha Motor President Yoshihiro Hidaka.
However, Team Blue is also fostering the current wave of new riders by hosting amateur races. Before the COVID-19 crisis, Japan’s more restrictive emissions laws thwarted ridership growth, as motorcycles and scooters became a less viable leisure activity and form of transportation. Now, it seems that people are finding their way back to two wheels, and hopefully, they stay even after the pandemic recedes.